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Mohammad Kaif's yoga tweet: Furore typical of religious right

It can be safely argued that many people can survive without god for a long time but not too many would be able to exist without the sun for long.

So, who should Mohammed Kaif be offering his salutations to — the abstract idea of an Almighty God or the clear, undisputed and almighty source of life on earth?

The furore over Kaif's decision to post pictures of himself while performing surya namaskar — a set of postures and breathing exercises performed at dawn — is typical of the obscurantism of our times. It tells us that in spite of rapid advances in science, philosophy, technology and theology, religious fundamentalists would prefer to see the world through medieval-era concepts. They would deny evolutionary logic and scientific evidence to propagate the idea of a deity who could get offended by early-morning stretching, breathing and salutation (namaskar) to the sun.

It is also a symbol of the laughable hubris of the Muslims objecting to the concept of surya namaskar. Don't they know every minute of life in every conceivable form is an ode to the sun? In everything we eat, drink and breathe, at the core is the role of the sun. The earth, in fact the entire solar system, revolves around it. Seasons change because of it. Day and night are because of the sun. Only a rare combination of ignorance and irrationality would make somebody argue that a salutation to the sun is wrong, an insult to the idea of God.

Its benefits are immense. As Sadhguru points out: "Surya namaskar is essentially about building a dimension within you where your physical cycles are in sync with the sun’s cycles. It is not by accident but by intent that it has been structured with twelve postures or twelve asanas in it."

Mohammad Kaif performing yoga. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MohammadKaif

Mohammad Kaif performing yoga. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MohammadKaif

Which religion or its messenger would proscribe harmony between the source of life and those dependent on it?

In fact, the idea of yoga being a religious practise — the source of resistance among Muslims — is also flawed. Yoga was indeed born in India — it is mentioned in Upanishads and other vedic texts — but it does not have any religious identity. Like any other exercise — swimming, cycling, running — aimed at physical, mental and spiritual well-being, yoga belongs to anyone who wants to practise it. It is neither Hindu, nor anti-Islamic. It isn't Christian or Buddhist either. Yoga is a faith in itself. Practise it with the image of the god you have in mind, as Kaif does, while thinking about Allah.

Treat yoga as sport, a recreational activity, a physical and spiritual quest that adds value to life, strength to muscles and stamina to lungs. Don’t look for god in it; search instead for a healthier lifestyle.

The reason is simple. Yoga doesn't have an underlying religious doctrine, it doesn't preach that the way to salvation lies through a dharma or through a particular God. It only teaches the importance of good mental, physical and spiritual health. It offers salvation of a different kind through life free of ailments, stress and negative energy. You can achieve it through the right balance of breathing and physical postures. Since it delivers empirical results, yoga could actually be compared to science instead of a religious doctrine, a pragmatic practise instead of a theoretical concept.

Think about this: Considering the havoc being caused in the world in the name of God, the prevailing hatred and bigotry, yoga could even be a good anti-dote to the malefic influence of religion and its preachers.

This is not to argue that yoga, or surya namaskar, should be forced down upon people. Like religion, the idea of finding a perfect regimen for health and fitness is an individual pursuit. Just as no religion can claim to be the only path to God, no form of exercise can claim superiority over others.

But, if Kaif is convinced that it is a complete workout, the best form of exercise without the need for equipment, let him practise his surya namaskar in peace. Before calling him names, bear in mind, Mohammed is in his name too.

For those calling an ode to sun it an insult to god, here is some advice: Remove sun — at least imagine this — from your life. We would soon find out if even God can save you!

Updated Date: Jan 02, 2017 17:23 PM

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